Bill would ban peer-to-peer use in agencies

File-sharing software would be prohibited on government, contractor networks

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said he plans to introduce a bill that would ban the use of peer-to-peer software on all government and contractor computers and networks.

Towns, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, held a hearing July 30 about the security issues associated with peer-to-peer software.

Possible information leaks about the electronics for the president’s Marine One helicopters and financial information belonging to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer onto the peer-to-peer network LimeWire make such a ban necessary, Towns said. “LimeWire does not deny those reports but claims that recent changes to the software prevent inadvertent file sharing,” Towns said.

To investigate LimeWire’s assertions, Towns’ committee staff members downloaded and explored Lime Wire's software, he said.

“The staff found copyrighted music and movies, federal tax returns, government files, medical records, and many other sensitive documents on the Limewire network,” Towns said.

LimeWire has taken steps to eliminate inadvertent filing sharing, the company’s founder and Chairman Mark Gorton testified.

A new version of LimeWire’s software released in December 2008 eliminates the possibility of inadvertently sharing files, Gorton said.

“LimeWire 5 does not share any documents by default,” Gorton said. “In order for a LimeWire user to change their default settings to enable document sharing, they have to click nine times and disregard three warnings.”

“As far as I am concerned, the days of self-regulation should be over for the file-sharing industry,” Towns said. “In the last administration, the Federal Trade Commission took a see no-evil, hear-no-evil approach to the file-sharing software industry. I hope the new administration is revisiting that approach.”


About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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